The art of tease and burlesque: Hurricane Fran


Jessica Rose

Hurricane Fran performing.

Many might initially think of the 2010 movie starring Christina Aguilera when the term “burlesque” arises. However, Hurricane Fran assures that it’s not an accurate representation. For those going to a burlesque show expecting merely sexy outfits and cabaret like the film, they will be too much of a surprise when clothes start flying and nipple tassels start shaking. 

Hurricane Fran said that burlesque is many things and is mostly up to interpretation to each performer. To her, it’s most importantly about the art of the tease.

“It’s a very lengthy strip tease,” Hurricane Fran said. “Drawing out the reveal and just milking it for all it’s worth.”

She also described the variations of burlesque, from comedy to horror to storytelling. Then, there is her genre, which she describes as “high femininity camp.” 

“It’s like Dolly Parton on crack: lots of pink and ostrich feathers,” she said.

Hurricane Fran has been doing burlesque since July 2018 and is currently a co-producer of the Stardust Revue, a drag and burlesque production group. She’s also made several appearances at Chico State, such as the Queer Prom, the Diversity Ball and the upcoming KCSC Drag & Burlesque show on May 16 from 5-8 p.m. at the Bell Memorial Union auditorium. 

Hurricane Fran grew up under the name Jessica Rose where she lived in a doublewide trailer from the 1970s in Oroville. Her family owned 10 acres where they raised animals and grew vegetables. Her mother was a barrel racer and she would help her with rodeos. Because Rose was living a cowgirl life, she remained isolated from other kids her age. Rose said it was extremely awkward going into middle school and onward. 

“I didn’t get a lot of positive self-talk. People were always focused on my body,” she said. “I was always a big kid and I hated that for a really long time.”

Rose recalled a time as a teenager where she bought a cheap Walmart mirror and hung it behind her door. She stood in front of the mirror, disliking everything she saw, and then decided to point out the parts she liked about herself. She slowly began to build up her self confidence. At 18, she met her partner who helped her set up boundaries and become a stronger person. Even then, she would’ve never thought she’d be so comfortable being up on stage with merely pasties and a thong.

“What’s kind of funny is that I don’t even feel naked anymore,” she said. 

Her initial step toward burlesque began in her late teens when she participated in the show, “Guys and Dolls,” where she starred as a sex worker. In the opening scene, she wore a sexy, purple corset that she still has to this day and blew a large puff of smoke into the face of another actress.

“My mom didn’t know I was going to be that character,” she said. “And you hear her in the theater going ‘Oh, sweet Jesus.’”

Rose said she continues to channel that character’s energy in other shows. However, it wasn’t until she attended a Maltese show that she was really drawn to doing burlesque. 

“I remember they had a throne on stage and I was like, that’s what I want,” she said. “I watched it, I loved it, I wanted to get into it. And I was so nervous.”

Eventually, Rose built up the courage to speak with the burlesque performers at a show and began to plan her first number. She said that she had no idea what she was doing and was completely overwhelmed. When the time came, she did her first number, which was “Ruin the Friendship” by Demi Lovato and the crowd loved it. Then, after three months she officially became a member of the burlesque group at the Maltese.

“I attribute all my success to Lulu Fatele. She is my burlesque mother,” she said. “She saw potential in me and took me under her wing.”

She said that Lulu Fatele gave her all the burlesque knowledge she had and provided resources to her such as custom sizing and how to mix her own music. Lulu Fatele prepared and “birthed” her into her first show out of the pandemic in Grass Valley. 

In her beginning stages of burlesque, she was named Violet Virago, which meant domineering and powerful. Despite her connecting with Violet’s values, she never fell in love with her. Hurricane Fran was born when she found a cheetah print muumuu at Thrifty Bargain and wore it to a Viva Las Vegas show at the Maltese. She said her friend posted a picture of her chugging a bottle and holding a cigarette in her opposite hand with the caption, “Hurricane Fran, this whirlwind of gas station gin and Newport cigarettes coming into the multistage soon.”

At the time, she was still Violet, but began to identify more with Hurricane Fran.

“Fran is down to earth. She’s gaudy as hell, she’s a diva and she’s a brat,” she said. “She’s the drunk mama friend, the mom at soccer games drinking wine coolers.”

Hurricane Fran and Lulu Fatele are currently in the works of a burlesque workshop to bring more people into the community and teach those who are curious about getting into it. 

Their next event will be a 18+ burlesque brunch on May 22 at the Lab Bar and Grill from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on Ticketleap and are $15 for presale and $20 at the door.

Gabriela Rudolph can be reached at [email protected].